Teaching Examples

Some likes it, some don’t
November 13, 2006, 8:40 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Howard Owens suggests that you buy every reporter a 6-megapixel compact digital camera that can also record video and save yourself a heap o’ money on multimedia training. Says he is “not a big fan of audio slide shows” — he would rather watch video. (He likes the Lumix DMC-FX01W; I would recommend the Canon PowerShot SD700.)

Well, what does everyone else think about that?

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24 Comments so far
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I don’t think it matters which camera you prefer because there aren’t 10 newsrooms in the country that would drop the money in one shot needed to give every news/sports/features staffer a camera.

Won’t. Happen.

Comment by Anonymous

Good point. But I heard that the Miami Herald is working on buying lots of reporters a really cheap video camera ($129) — like this — so which would be better?

Comment by Mindy McAdams

Hey, anonymous — wanna bet? Name your price … I need to pay off my car loan and buy out my home loan.

Thanks for the link, Mindy.

Comment by Howard Owens

I think audio slideshows work better than video in some instances. And I’m not sure one minute of video would be enough to do anyone much good. What’s the point of that?

Rather, I’d buy the staffers a cheap video camera instead of the still camera.

Comment by Murley

Mindy, BTW … the Lumix is the Consumer Reports recomendation. I actually carry a Sony CyberShot. I know a couple of journalists that use the Lumix though and like it.

Comment by Howard Owens

Oh, and for the Miami Herald choice … we started with something like that in Ventura … technology is probably much better now. I would like to see how those do. I imagine they do quite well enough.

Comment by Howard Owens

Murley, who’s recommending a still camera?

Hell, sometimes one minute is WAY too long.

Comment by Howard Owens

both the canon sureshot and the lumix are built like traditional digital still cameras.

Comment by Murley

Built like — but shoot video.

Built like — which makes them easier to carry.

I carry a CyberShot with me 100 percent of the time. Clips on my belt. Real easy. For reporters who carry purses, slips in quite easy. And you don’t have to juggle it when you’re doing your traditional print journalist reporting and taking written notes. Easy.

Comment by Howard Owens

Reporters aren’t likely to thank you for giving them a camera, video or otherwise, to lug around. Instead, just replace their phone with something that takes pictures and video. That way, reporters don’t have to carry anything new. The quality isn’t top-notch yet, but it’s good enough, and you’ll get more video. AKA, more coverage.

It’s a quantity versus quality decision.

Comment by Lucas

I think giving dinky cameras to print reporters is a really bad idea.

They’ll probably shoot the video as an afterthought after they have their print story.

Then add to that the fact that they’re using the dinky video cameras with aweful audio quality.

If I clicked on a link and then had to sit through even 30 seconds of aweful video, I’d feel jipped and angry.

There’s nothing wrong with training reporters to shoot video. But not all the reporters. And those you choose to train, turn them into full-time videographers. And give them equipment that will produce a product that isn’t shameful.

Comment by Angela Grant

Angela, I really like how you said that — “a product that isn’t shameful.” I think it will really hurt news sites more than help them if they put unprofessional junk online.

I can’t count how many times print editors have complained about young journalists who can’t use a comma properly. A tiny little comma is so important, but a two-minute video can look like my cat was operating the camera? How does that make sense?

Comment by Mindy McAdams

Yes, so much for my PURELY HYPOTHETICAL IDEA … guess I shouldn’t suggest something I’ve never actually done.

Comment by Howard Owens

Your cat shooting a video would be a hit on YouTube and how large an audience would it reach?

YouTube turned out to be a $1.65 billion audience built on content primarily from amatuers shooting in many cases “awful video.”

Was the L.A. police beating video “professional?” Was it compelling?

Choose the right tools and resources for the right stories.

In Knoxville, we are trying some of the $129 cameras from Target you mentioned. Their key advantage: wicked simple.

Here’s a clip from a reporter that had never shot video for a story before.

We also use the Cybershot cameras Howard mentioned. And we have a Canon XL.

Comment by Jack Lail

Thanks so much for the example, Jack! You are right about YouTube, of course (where cats can become stars both on and off-camera). But your talking-head guy is talking for 90 seconds, and at the end, he even admits he’s not the right person to be answering the question.

I don’t mind if journalists experiment — but let’s keep an eye on the numbers. How many people watched that video, and how many watched it to the end? How many people will watch more than one video of that type per day?

How is the video being archived? How is it being tagged?

Comment by Mindy McAdams

Mr. Lail, I’m sorry to say this, but that video wasn’t worth the time it took to load for me. I wanted to stop it after 15 seconds.

First, it’s shaking like an earthquake the whole time and makes me feel a little queesy.

Second, what’s the advantage of having that guy talking in video? Video is a medium for showing. It’s not for TELLING.

I would have preferred just reading that guy’s comments in text. No download time. And the reporter would have edited his words to the most important, saving me time.

Comment by Angela Grant

The traffic and archiving are good questions.

On the traffic, we’ll see.

And on the archiving, at this point, it’s connected to the story, but I would like a way to catalog all multimedia in a useful way.

But the first hurdle we’re trying to get over is to get a print newsroom to be willing to shoot video. It may take a little while to figure out what works, but that’s OK.

Comment by jack lail

The unsteady camera isn’t a problem if the news video is worthy enough. People will watch it. Jack’s point about Rodney King is an excellent point. And I don’t think Jack was pointing to this video as an example of the ideal video, but to show how easy it is to put a cheap camera in the hands of a reporter can get something of news value back. This won’t be the most compelling video of the day, but it does add depth to a story.

My only complaint about this camera — and this is the first video I’ve seen from this model … Jack, is that the best it will do with sound? Viewers will tolerate a lot on less than slick visuals, but poor sound quality is a big deterrent.

I’ve instituted video programs in two places now (and ramping up a third now), and I’ve talked with other site managers who have done it — the more video you do, the more traffic you drive. Quantity is CRITCIALLY important in the early stages of developing multimedia (and by early stages, I mean the first 18 months).

You are changing habits for both reporters and readers. To do that, you need to do it often.

Comment by Howard Owens

I’m still a little unclear why journalists are willing to lower our standards so much for the Internet. In print, you wouldn’t give your photographer a point-and-shoot. In TV, you wouldn’t have your camera man pop it on a tripod and report any more than you’d have your anchors try to light the studio. In general you wouldn’t have interns as lead reporters or run letters-to-the-Editor as “News.” And you certainly wouldn’t print your magazine at Kinko’s because it “looks good enough, I guess.”

What is so strange about continuing to let people specialize and develop the skills to do their jobs and not spend all their time trying to do everyone else’s job. If your newsroom is really only three people at a small publication, that’s one thing, but for the majority of publications to be looking at ways to water down their products seems counter-productive.

Comment by Anonymous

I like the way you said that. I agree with you wholeheartedly.

Comment by Angela Grant

Read the Innovator’s Dillemma. “Good enough” is a big part of what made some huge successes. Or, read the findings from Newspaper Next.

While some are out there laboring over the creation of one HiDef video for a three-inch player, others will post a stack of less slick productions that are compelling enough to warrant watching.

Start small. Do what you can. And if what can be done now (because it’s all the newsroom is ready for) is to post grainy video with something easy to use, then do that. Get the ball rolling, as they say.

The truth is most newspapers overdo it. Readers don’t need a 20-inch story if they only have time for 10. They don’t need a crystal clear screen if all they want is to see the plane hit the building as soon as they can see it.

Let’s not hide behind supposed higher standards if it means not covering the news.

Comment by Lucas

Send out the cameras, and send ’em out quick, I say.

To Mr. Anonymous’: “In print, you wouldn’t give your photographer a point-and-shoot.” Well, one need only take a stroll through any bureau away from the downtown office of even the big newspapers to see reporters snapping pics for the paper. All my recently graduated reporter buddies do it.

I like giving journalists phones with the capability to take decent-quality photos, but I just don’t think the resolution is there yet on that technology, at least on the images I’ve seen.

Now, I don’t think reporters should replace our fine photographers. But if the print reporter can be the first to the scene when there’s a bus that’s slammed into the local McDonald’s, well, I don’t give a damn if Mr. Reporter doesn’t know spit about the rule of thirds — I want a photo of that bus for the Web site, and no one’s head better be cut off. I consider the ability to take a decent photo a basic skill for writers in this business. Period. With the TV helicopters swirling around constantly, newspaper sites NEED more spot news images however they can get them.

Regarding Angela’s comment about video being an afterthought: True somewhat, but then again, some good video comes from just after having interviewed a subject. A video need not always have legs as a story on its own; it can always be an interesting supplement to a story. If you’re assigned to write about Sunday’s pie eating contest, just show me a 30-second clip of the guy scarfing the thing down! That clip is more than sufficient if there’s a text story accompanying it.

Comment by Danny Sanchez

When I was a reporter (roughly 1986 to 1996), in every newsroom in every newspaper I worked at, every reporter carried a camera. I was the only lucky one to have a 35mm Nikon, because my brother, a former photojournalist, gave it to me. Everybody else carried an Instamatic.

Sure, we had professional photographers, but they can’t be everywhere at once.

A lot of Instamatic photography wound up in print, sometimes as the lead photo.

Should we not have had photos unless only the trained and fully equipment photographers hadn’t taken the pictures?

You wouldn’t send a reporter out to a crime scene without a pen and paper, so why send him out without a camera. Even if the staff photographer is there, the reporter might unexpectedly find himself in a position to snap the most newsworthy photo of the moment.

I got into this business to inform people. To me, the tools don’t matter. The methods don’t matter. Get the information through whatever means necessary (ethically and legally, of course) and report it. Period.

I would propose that those who are arguing against reporters carrying cameras are not making a sound journalistic argument. They are arguing AGAINST GOOD JOURNALISM. They are arguing that we should NOT be aggressive pursuers of truth, but only of selective observation.

Danny’s suggestion to read Innovator’s Solution is a good one. The other two important books are John Battelle’s The Search and a book on usability called, “Don’t Make Me Think” (even if you don’t build user interfaces for online applications, it will help you understand how people REALLY use the Web — it will radically alter your perception of what online journalism should be).

Next, spend an hour a day for the next week on YouTube. Get to know it intimately. I won’t give you any other hints than that … just spend time with it.

If you want quality journalism to survive, you better reinvent the way you conceive your jobs. You are no longer in control. The people you are still thinking of as the audience is in control. They want and expect choices, and you better give it to them. If you’re spending too much time on Flash, you aren’t spending enough time on creating options. If you are writing 20 inch stories instead of four five inch stories, you are not creating choices.

In fact, you should be blogging instead of trying to win Pulitzers.

The Church of Journalism is dead. Too bad its adherents haven’t realized it yet.

Comment by Howard Owens

Sometimes I need a good editor before I click submit … sorry for the mistakes in the above post …

Comment by Howard Owens

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